Product Re[al]view: Panasonic's Link-to-Cell

Product Re[al]view: Panasonic's Link-to-Cell

Taryn Williford
Oct 15, 2008

After our past post on the 'cell phones only' vs. 'landline' debate, we know that a lot of you are keeping your landlines because of bad cell phone reception in your home. Here's the answer: the Panasonic Link-to-Cell lets you connect your incoming and outgoing cell phone calls to home handsets (whether or not you also run a landline through them) via Bluetooth. We got a chance to take this puppy for a test drive...

Product-provided Specs:

  • Cell Phone Auto Link: You only need to manually connect your cell phone and the Panasonic Link-to-Cell once.

  • DECT 6.0 DIGITAL: Digital enhanced cordless telecommunications will not conflict with other electronics in your home

  • Talking Caller ID: Speaks the name or number of the person calling and tells you when your battery is low

  • Call Block and Night Mode: Program your phone to block all unwanted calls or to only ring when convenient

  • Expandable up to 6 Handsets

  • Ringer ID: Customize your phone book with a choice of preset ring tones

  • Call Waiting Caller ID

  • Digital Handset Speakerphone

  • Handset Intercome

  • White Backlit LCD on Handset

  • Lighted Handset Keypad

  • Ni-MH Batteries Included

  • Headset Jack and Belt Clip Included

  • Wall Mountable Base and Charger Units

  • First Impression:
    Our first opinion, before ever opening the box, was that this was going to be a handy way avoid dropped calls from moving around the house or to make sure you always are near a phone when it rings (You know, to avoid that moment when you actually hear the end of your ringtone and realize you're going to have to call someone back. Fine if it's a friend. But if it's a stranger who doesn't leave a message, you're either going to have to make that awkward call back or forever wonder who was on the other end.)

    First Glance:
    Opening the box, the product was sleek, black and not too intrusive. The base unit is a shiny black box about the size of a half a sheet of paper and the width of a toilet paper roll. It's wall mountable or it can stand.

    Where you put it depends on two things: If you have a landline, you're going to need to run a phone cord to it. Also, it should be between 2 and 10 feet from your connected cell phone with no obstructions, so that means 2 and 10 feet away from (and in direct view of) the spot with the best reception in your house.

    The product comes with two handsets. We put one in our living room and one in our bedroom with the base unit in the kitchen.

    First Thing:
    Setup was a breeze. Making the initial connection between our Blackberry and the base unit was easy and effortless. There was nothing else to do. The base unit can connect two cell phones at once.

    First Use:
    We immediately made a call to our cell from a friend's line. The sound quality was less than we'd hoped for, but it got better as we moved the cell further from the base unit (it was initially left about 2 feet away, the suggested minimum). Optimally, at 4 feet from the unit, we got the best sound, but it still wasn't as xlear as it would have been to pick up our phone.

    Calls out from the handsets showed up on our friends' screens as if we had called from our cell, but the sound quality was noticeably weak.

    First Problems:
    On our second night, a call from mom came in (During Dancing with the Stars, if you must know.) and we picked up on the handset. We heard a quick "hello?" before the call was dropped. Ironically, our cell phone was still on the line. This happened twice before we gave up and took our calls on the cell. These problems never happened again or with any other numbers. We still don't know what the problem was.

    Another issue was the failure of the "cell phone auto link" feature. The manual says that when the cell phone comes back within range of the base unit, it will connect within a minute due to periodical scans of nearby Bluetooth enabled gadgets (the frequency of these scans can be changed). Our cell phone, several minutes later each time, was never "found" by the base unit. We always had to manually connect.

    Would we reccomend it?
    It was great having a phone always nearby without feeling like we were too attached to our phone. But to be clear, we do live in a tiny city apartment and we'd be kind of spoiled if we said that it was necessary. We have great, large windows and can see clearly the cell towers we connect to, so reception has never been a problem. But if we had a larger home with dead spots, we would certainly make this a permanent purchase. It is an easy solution to the problems you might face in a large living space. With the ability to connect to up to 6 handsets, you could cover a lot of ground all while leaving your cell in it's handy charging spot.

    Another thing that made this product not-so-practical for us was that we use our phone for more than making calls. We rarely log online to check emails and rely on our Blackberry to alert us that we have a message. For this reason, we found ourselves carrying our cell around the apartment anyways. But again, if your solitary use of your cell phone is to make and receive calls, then the Panasonic Link-to-Cell would be a welcome convenience.

    Where can I get it?
    You can learn more and pick one up here for $99.95.

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